Week 7 Blog: A Lovely Day in Strasbourg

This week was another exciting week in the books for the SLS France Program! We had our second full-day excursion of the semester, and this time we got to visit the beautiful city of Strasbourg. Metz may be known as La Ville Verte (Green City), but Strasbourg takes the cake when it comes to sustainability efforts. It is not only one of the greenest cities in France, but in all of Europe as it was in the top three finalists for the European Green Capital award in 2021! The city is known for being “France’s most bike-friendly city,” its thriving biodiversity, and its efforts towards utilizing energy-positive buildings, and we got to experience all these characteristics during our field trip. For this trip, Dr. Boulard handed us the reins for the activities of the day; her goal is to help her students develop teamwork and global competence skills by putting us in charge of thematic excursions and exploring on-site what is being studied in the classroom. The class was split into four groups, and each group planned a different activity. The first group (Olivia, John, Marc, and Lauren) took us to the Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg and on a boat tour. The cathedral has a beautiful burnt orange pinkish color that comes from the sandstone used to build it, and it instantly caught my eye as one of my favorite qualities of the building. Because this was the first activity of the day, the sun was still rising and hitting the stained-glass windows just right to illuminate the vaulted ceiling! The cathedral is also home to the Strasbourg Astronomical Clock from the Middle Ages that was a super cool combination of work from artists and mathematicians and was an awe-inspiring invention of the time. When we finished the cathedral, the first group also planned a boat tour to take us through the city’s canals! It was a lovely way to see a lot of the city from a new perspective! I especially thought the canal lifts (locks) were so cool the way they filled with water to allow the boat to transfer to a higher canal! 

Figures 1-3: Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg
Figure 4: Astronomical Clock
Figure 5,6: SLS students with Dr. Boulard on the boat tour, boarding the boat for the boat tour

I was in the second group with Laynie, Ida, and Megan, and we decided to take the class to the Parc de l’Orangerie. We picked this park not only because it is a beautiful place but also because it has played a significant role in protecting and preserving Strasbourg’s biodiversity. The Parc de l’Orangerie is responsible for reintroducing the stork and effectively saving the species from extinction in 1983. Today, over 800 young storks have been successfully born, and the Alsace belief that they are symbols of happiness, faithfulness, and good luck! We walked through the park and took in the stunning views while on our way to the area of the European Parliament to do a scavenger hunt of the European Union’s buildings for group three’s (Nate, Tanner, and Ngari) activity. We were given two pamphlets (one easy and one challenging) for a scavenger hunt that took us around to all the government buildings to find clues. It was an entertaining and nostalgic way to see and learn about the area while working with our classmates to solve the riddle! We ended the day with a visit to Tour Elithis Danube and the Parc de la Citadelle led by group four (Maddie, Alexander, Laura, and Samyuktha). The Tour Elithis Danube is an energy positive apartment building which means that the building produces more energy than it uses! The only other energy positive building I have seen in person is the Kendeda Building at Tech. It is fantastic that these methods are being used in an apartment complex because they are typically huge energy guzzlers! After admiring the tower’s architecture, we made our way to the Parc de la Citadelle, home to a military fortress destroyed during a siege in 1870. Today this park is classified as an Ecojardin (just like the one I saw in Nice) ¹! This park was stunning! We got to spend our last hour in Strasbourg relaxing under the willow trees and watching the swans gracefully swim through the stream at golden hour. It was a picturesque ending to a lovely day exploring the ecological efforts of a new city!

Figure 7: Stork statues in the Parc de l’Orangerie
Figure 8: SLS students in the Parc de la Citadelle
Figure 9,10: Alexander, John, and Tanner finding the answers to the scavenger hunt
Figure 11: European Union Parliament Building
Figure 12: Laura explaining the history behind the Parc de la Citadelle
Figure 13-15: Ecojardin label for the Parc de la Citadelle, swans in the Park
Figure 16: Me and Dr. Boulard posing for a photo in the park

¹Read more about what makes a park an EcoJardin in my week 2 blog “Toxic Gardens, Marvel Movies & the Seaside”